Posts for: October, 2015
Foot care an important factor in healthy aging
For today’s baby boomers, it’s more important than ever to stay healthy and active as they age. While growing older causes some unavoidable body changes, more boomers are focusing on healthy lifestyles that can help them prevent problems associated with aging such as mobility issues related to the feet and legs. Impairment of the lower extremities is a leading cause of activity limitation in older people, according to the US National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).
“Foot problems are a health concern that can lead to further complications like knee, hip, and lower-back pain, all of which undermine mobility,” says Shaun Hafner, DPM, a podiatrist at Reston, Manassas, and Leesburg Foot and Ankle Center and member of the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA). “The human foot has been called the mirror of health. Systemic problems often related to age, such as diabetes, arthritis, and circulatory disease often can first be detected in the feet.”
Fortunately, boomers can do a lot to maintain and even improve their foot health. APMA offers the following advice to keep your feet pain-free.
Walking offers many benefits for both physical and mental health. If your feet hurt, however, you may find yourself less willing to get in the daily walking that’s good for your overall well-being.
To keep your walking regimen comfortable, choose a good-quality, lightweight walking shoe with breathable upper materials like leather or nylon mesh. The heel counter should be firm, and the shoe heel should have less cushioning in order to position the foot’s heel closer to the ground for stability. The front of the shoe should offer adequate support but also be flexible. For a list of footwear that has been awarded APMA’s Seal of Acceptance, visit www.apma.org/seal.
Shop for shoes in the late afternoon, because feet swell throughout the day, and have both feet fitted professionally. Wear the type of socks you intend to wear while walking and be sure the shoe fits snugly, but not tightly, over the sock. Your toes should have plenty of room to move around.
Deal with diabetes
“Diabetes symptoms often appear in the feet first, and the extremities can be hit hard by this chronic disease,” says Dr. Hafner. “In fact, diabetes complications lead to more than 65,000 lower-limb amputations each year.” Including a podiatrist in your diabetes care can reduce the risk of amputation up to 85 percent. Learn to recognize warning signs that often appear in the feet, including changes in skin color, swelling, numbness, pain, open sores that heal slowly, ingrown or fungal toenails, bleeding corns and calluses, and dry cracks in the skin, especially around the heels.
If you have diabetes, inspect your feet daily for cuts, bruises, sores or changes to the toenails. Wear thick, soft socks without seams that could rub or cause blisters. Always have new shoes fitted properly and never go barefoot, not even in your own home.
Arthritis can affect the structure and function of your feet. Common symptoms in the feet include joint swelling, joint pain or tenderness, redness or heat in joints, limited movement, early-morning stiffness, and skin changes, including rashes and growths.
Podiatrists are often the first to diagnose a patient’s arthritis. Treatment can take many forms, including physical therapy, exercise, and medication. Regular check-ups are vital to managing the condition successfully.
General foot health
In addition to shoes that fit properly, it’s important to choose socks, pantyhose, or stockings that also fit well. If you have corns or calluses, never cut them with a razor, pocket knife, or other sharp instrument. Consult a podiatrist and only use over-the-counter foot products if he or she advises it. Bathe your feet daily in lukewarm water with a mild soap that contains moisturizers, or use a separate moisturizer after your bath or shower. Trim or file toenails straight across and inspect your feet every day. If you notice redness, swelling, cracks in the skin or sores, see your podiatrist.
Snug cleats, repeated kicking can contribute to a painful problem
Toes and feet can take a beating, especially from sports.
Foot and ankle surgeon Steven A. Gordon, DPM, FACFAS, says He treats many soccer-playing children for ingrown toenails. He blames improper toenail trimming, snug soccer cleats and repetitive kicking for creating this painful problem.
“Many kids wear hand-me-down cleats that don’t fit,” says Dr. Gordon. “Older children like tighter cleats. They believe it gives them a better feel for the ball and the field.”
Dr. Gordon has offices in Reston, Manassas and Leesburg and is a member of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons. He says there are steps soccer moms and dads can take to prevent their children from suffering a painful ingrown toenail. First, teach children how to trim their toenails properly. Trim toenails in a fairly straight line, and don’t cut them too short. Second, make sure cleats fit properly.
“A child’s shoe size can change within a single soccer season,” he reminds parents.
If a child develops a painful ingrown toenail, soaking their foot in room-temperature water and gently massaging the side of the nail fold can reduce the inflammation. But he warns parents against home treatments, which can be dangerous. The American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons lists myths about ingrown toenail home treatments on its Web site, FootHealthFacts.org.
“If your son’s or daughter’s ingrown toenails show signs of infection, it’s definitely time to seek medical care,” says Dr. Gordon.
A foot and ankle surgeon like Dr. Gordon can remove a child’s ingrown toenail, and prevent it from returning, with a simple, 10-minute surgical procedure. During the short procedure, the doctor numbs the toe and removes the ingrown portion of the nail. Various techniques can permanently remove part of a nail’s root too, preventing it from growing back.
“Most children experience very little pain afterwards,” says Dr. Gordon, “and can resume normal activity the next day.”
For more information on ingrown toenails and other pediatric foot problems, contact Dr. Gordon’s office at (703) 437-6333 or www.FootVA.com.
Is it better to look good or feel good? Both, when you're pondering pedicures
Whether you’re getting ready for a romantic evening out, or looking ahead to when sandal days are back again, treating your feet to a pedicure can help you look and feel your best—as long as you keep foot health front of mind.
“It’s important to ensure your pedicure is done properly, whether you’re doing it yourself at home or enjoying a professional treatment in a nail salon or spa,” says Steven Gordon, DPM, a podiatrist at Reston, Manassas, and Leesburg Foot and Ankle Centers and member of the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA).
APMA offers some pedicure pointers to help you love how your feet look and feel:
- Start with a good soak in warm water for at least five minutes. Soaking will help soften calluses and prep feet for removing dry, rough skin. To exfoliate, use a pumice stone or foot file. “Never use a foot razor to remove dead skin, and ban your pedicurist from using one on you,” says Dr. Gordon. “It’s too easy for a quick slip-up to cause permanent damage or lead to serious infection.”
- Shave your legs a day or two before your professional pedicure, but not the day of. Shaving can cause minor abrasions and fissures in the skin, allowing bacteria to enter while your feet soak or the nail technician handles your feet. A little bit of stubble won’t bother her at all.
- When doing a home pedicure, use toenail clippers with a straight edge and cut nails straight across. Avoid other cutting tools, such as manicure scissors, as they can increase the risk of ingrown nails. For salon pedicures, bring your own tools; shared tools can spread bacteria if they haven’t been cleaned properly. Use an emery board to smooth and round nail edges.
- Never permit a nail technician to cut or trim cuticles, which protect nail beds from bacteria. Instead, use a rubber cuticle pusher or liquid remover to gently push back cuticles just a little bit. Use a wooden or rubber manicure stick—never metal or anything sharp—to clean beneath nails.
- Remove polish after it’s been on for a while. Keeping nails polished for extended periods may promote fungal growth. Leave toenails polish-free for a few days between pedicures.
- After your pedicure, don’t walk around in flimsy flip-flops, especially the ones salons sometimes give customers before they leave. They don’t provide adequate protection or support for your feet.
You can also look for foot-friendly products that have earned APMA’s Seal of Acceptance or Approval by visiting www.apma.org/seal. Podiatrists have evaluated these products and found them to be beneficial to foot health.
Finally, never put up with foot pain. “Discomfort and pain that last longer than several days could be a sign of a more serious problem or infection,” Dr. Gordon adds. Seek treatment from a podiatrist—the foot and ankle expert.
Love isn’t the only human experience that may make you wonder, “How can something so good hurt so bad?” You might find yourself asking that question after your morning run, afternoon power walk, or other physical activity that demands a lot from your feet. Physical activities like running, brisk walking, and playing sports can be great for your body; exercise improves cardiovascular health, burns calories, and builds muscle strength. Summer is a great time to stay—or get—active, but you still need to take precautions to ensure your exercise routine is also healthy for your feet.
“Let’s face it—we all have a lot riding on our feet, and we demand a great deal from them, especially when we’re engaging in strenuous exercise,” says Steven Gordon, DPM, a podiatrist at Reston Foot and Ankle Center and member of the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA). Foot health is a key component of overall health and well-being. Fortunately, it’s not difficult to take the right steps toward protecting your feet when you run, jog, power walk, or engage in other exercise.
“Be aware of common ailments of the season like athlete’s foot, blisters, nail fungus, foot odor, and warts, and the summer foot fixes that can help cure them,” says Dr. Gordon.
You can also take these steps to minimize the risk of injury or other problems when running or exercising:
- Stretch before and after activity. Lactic acid is the chemical by-product of exercise that causes muscles to ache after a workout. Stretching improves your circulation and decreases the buildup of lactic acid; it can also help relieve stiffness and prevent strain. Simply flexing the hamstrings and stretching calves, Achilles tendons, and shins can help ensure your workout is safe.
- Choose an appropriate running shoe. The only real expense of running or walking is buying shoes, so it pays to invest in a good pair that will provide the support you need to have a safe, successful workout. If you’re prone to swollen feet later in the day, try on athletic shoes in the afternoon, when your feet are most swollen, to ensure a proper fit. Shoes should be stable from side to side, well-cushioned but with enough room to wiggle your toes, and snug to the heel. You can find a list of healthy footwear that carries APMA’s Seal of Acceptance on the organization’s website, www.apma.org/seal.
- Be aware of the surface. The surface you’re running on makes a difference in how hard the activity is on your feet. Hard, uneven ground can lead to stress fractures, slips, and falls. Softer ground is more foot-friendly and causes less shock than harder surfaces. If possible, run or walk on grass or dirt paths that are flat, even, and well-manicured.
- Think twice about running in inclement weather. If your feet are wet and cold, the ground will feel harder, and you’ll be more prone to slipping.
- Listen to your feet. It’s not normal to experience pain or changes in the feet and ankles. If you experience foot pain that lasts for more than a few days, see a podiatrist for evaluation. He or she can tell you if the pain is a minor, passing problem or a symptom of something more serious such as injury or disease.
“With some simple precautions, you can ensure your walking and running activities remain healthy and enjoyable for your entire body, especially your hardworking feet,” Dr. Gordon says.
Steven Gordon, DPM, is a podiatrist at Reston Foot and Ankle Center in Reston, VA. Call 703-437-6333 or visit www.FootVA.com to make an appointment. Visit www.apma.org to learn more about foot health and care.
Avoiding footwear fumbles when exercising or playing sports
No one disputes that exercise provides a host of health benefits, from helping control weight to improving cardiovascular function. But exercising in the wrong footwear can cause more harm than good, especially because foot health is integral to overall well-being.
“To get the most out of your workout or from playing a favorite sport, it’s imperative to choose the right footwear for the type of exercise you’ll engage in,” says Shaun Hafner, DPM, a podiatrist at Reston, Manassas, and Leesburg Foot and Ankle Centers and member of the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA). “Improper footwear can lead to irritation and injury.”
Foot or ankle sprains and fractures are the most common types of injuries related to exercise and footwear. The type of exercise or sport you prefer can influence the type of injury you could experience. For example, foot and ankle sprains and fractures are generally more common among football players, while basketball players may suffer more ankle sprains, and runners experience stress fractures to feet or ankles.
APMA offers some guidance on how to avoid foot injury while exercising:
- Always warm up before exercise. Just as you stretch to warm up leg and arm muscles, your feet need to warm up gradually too.
- If you experience foot pain while exercising or engaging in physical activity, stop immediately. Foot pain is not normal, and you shouldn’t feel any when you exercise. If pain persists even after you stop your workout, see a podiatrist.
- Always wear supportive shoes that are appropriate for the type of physical activity you’re engaging in. “Runners need more arch support and cushioning to absorb impact,” says Dr. Hafner. “Basketball players require extra ankle support to prevent injury from side-to-side movement—which is why basketball shoes come up over the ankles.” Choosing the right footwear can help ensure you minimize the risk of injury and enjoy a more productive and comfortable workout.
- Don’t go it alone when you’re shopping for a workout or sports shoe. Go to a store that specializes in athletic footwear and ask to be fitted professionally before you buy. Shoes should fit comfortably as soon as you try them on; never assume you’ll “break in” an uncomfortable athletic shoe. Shop toward the end of the day, when feet are at their largest due to normal daily swelling.
- Whatever your exercise or sport of choice, your athletic shoes should offer plenty of support in the front and back.
Finally, when athletic shoes begin to show signs of wearing out, it’s time to replace them. “Examine the tread, especially around mid-sole,” adds Dr. Shaun Hafner. “Generally, you should replace athletic shoes every year, and running shoes every 300 to 400 miles.”